Meet 3 of the Ottawa athletes competing in Invictus Games in Toronto – Ottawa

For Ottawa athletes competing in the Invictus Games next week in Toronto, the competition is a chance to demonstrate that even if someone is down, they shouldn’t be counted out.

Prince Harry founded the games to use sports to help soldiers recover after being injured in the line of duty. The event includes adaptive sports for ill and injured military personnel from 17 allied countries. 

There are nine athletes that list Ottawa as their residence on the Team Canada website, and three of them attended a national flag tour event at the Department of National Defence headquarters on Friday.

There are two more tour events this weekend:

  • 3 p.m. Saturday on Parliament Hill.
  • 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., 1 p.m. Sunday at the Canadian War Museum as part of the Army Run.

Retired Master Cpl. David Desjardins is competing in the Invictus Games in wheelchair basketball, shotput and discus. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

David Desjardins, a retired master corporal who served in the artillery and military police, said he experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was medically released from service after hip surgery that limited his ability to walk.

“The physical disability to me had more stigma attached to it, because PTSD you could hide,” he said.

He said he withdrew socially and began to gain weight, eventually developing Type 2 diabetes.

“When you have to rely on a wheelchair for your mobility, people see it. And the first thing that goes through a lot people’s minds when they’re first physically injured is, ‘what do they think?’ It takes a lot of time to get over your own mental barriers.”

Desjardins eventually joined Soldier On, a Canadian Armed Forces program for ill and injured personnel. Though he was reluctant to start, it got him involved in wheelchair basketball, one of his events in next week’s games.

“Once I sat in the chair and just started goofing around, I immediately fell in love with it, because it was a sense of freedom,” he said.

Desjardins, who is also competing in shotput and discus, said he’s more physically active in the last year than he has been in the previous five years as he trained for the games. He’s been doing 10 and 15 km circuits on his wheelchair and learning the technical aspects of the throwing sports.

He said the Invictus Games are a great platform to give people a new perspective on the capabilities of people with disabilities.

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